Mark Walker — global chief investment officer and managing director of the €30 billion ($33.7 billion) Univest Co. BV, Unilever's Rotterdam-based internal pension investment organization — was named the newest member of The 300 Club.
The group, founded in 2011, seeks to change the markets and investment management practices to avoid the kind of collapse that occurred in 2008.
“As someone who thrives on new challenges and responsibilities, I am looking forward to this opportunity to work with The 300 Club to confront the industry's mindset on issues such as sustainability and long-term value creation,” Mr. Walker, who is based in Kingston-upon-Thames, England, said in a 300 Club statement June 15 announcing his membership.
“Such issues are now, more than ever, critical to companies' future successes and to delivering the financial outcomes that the beneficiaries of our pension funds will need. Working together, there is much we can do to improve the financial decision-making and risk management approaches of the industry.”
To form its ranks, the club reaches out to thought leaders in institutional investing worldwide to address challenges in the investment landscape and contribute to shaping its future. With the addition of Mr. Walker, the elite group, whose name comes from the legendary 300 Spartans, now has 19 members from pension funds, money management firms, investment consulting firms and academia. Other members include Ronald E. Barin, vice president and chief investment officer, pension plan investments, Alcoa Inc., New York, overseeing $15 billion in retirement and corporate foundation assets; Christopher J. Ailman, chief investment officer of the $187.4 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, West Sacramento; Roger Urwin, Reigate, England-based global head of investment content, Willis Towers Watson plc; and Yves Choueifaty, CEO, TOBAM SAS, Paris.
Unilever has some 80 funded retirement plans in more than 40 countries, according to the Univest website. Some e21 billion of Unilever's pension investments are in defined benefit plans, with the remainder in defined contribution plans. The biggest share of Unilever retirement assets are in the United Kingdom, with e10 billion; the Netherlands (e4.9 billion), the United States, (e2.7 billion);and Germany (e1.8 billion).
“I was aware of The 300 Club through previous general conversations with peers and others in the industry,” Mr. Walker said in an e-mail. “I knew I shared many similar views on the investment industry and saw the potential to make future value-creating changes. However, discussions on actually joining started this year after a meeting with Saker Nusseibeh (CEO of Hermes Investment Management and founder of The 300 Club) on the back of my existing relationship with Hermes EOS,” whose equity ownership services includes corporate governance-related activities.
“I am passionate and particularly interested in (i) governance and avoiding practices that lead to short-termism and unnecessary costs by focusing on the long-term with an alignment of interests through the full value/decision-making chain; and (ii) sustainable investments,” Mr. Walker added in the e-mail.
Lars Dijkstra, 300 Club chairman, said in the statement, “Mark brings a deep understanding of the importance of sustainability in investment and business practices to the 300 Club. Unilever's corporate vision of sustainable growth and intense sense of social purpose means that their pension schemes are some of the more innovative.”